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Episode 8: Parasite Eve

It is refreshing to play a Square Enix game that doesn't expect me to dedicate at least 50 hours to finish. Parasite Eve understands its strength and takes the player for a wonderful, compact journey.

With a unique battle system, distinctive plot and enthralling main character, it is hard not to be a fan. But what truly sets Parasite Eve apart from the other excellent PSone RPGs is in cinematic ability to effectively tell the story and convey its ominous atmosphere. From the first gruesome rat transformation to fiery sleigh rides to fighting a T-Rex, Parasite Eve is pure entrainment.

At the end of the day, Parasite Eve is one of my favorite games I've played for Retro Encounter.

Parasite Eve

I haven't played Parasite Eve since it first came out way back in 1998. I remember enjoying it, but I wasn't blown away — at least, not enough to get excited by the sequel, which I have still never played. Interestingly enough, playing the game again after 17 years has been not only a trip down memory lane but also a more enjoyable experience compared to when I played it the first time. Maybe it's because I'm older and my tastes have matured a little — I don't think I'd ever played a horror game before Parasite Eve, whereas now I've explored and even sought out good experiences in the genre.

Despite the game's age and the fact that I've played a lot of different RPGs since 1998, I actually found the combat to be fresh and innovative; the blend of turn-based and real-time action really works (a few pesky final bosses notwithstanding), and it sets the game apart from other RPGs, both at the time and today. The story may invoke some pseudoscience to explain what is going on, but given the real world setting, I actually appreciated that they tried to ground it a little. Aya is a fantastic leading lady, taking on Eve and all of her mitochondria minions single-handedly, and without any needless sexualization (in the game anyway; the promotional materials don't always follow suit). Finally, the music is a perfect fit for the game, creating atmosphere and ambiance using percussive sounds that are both very Shimomura and also quite distinct from most of her work.

All in all, I think I may have to make playing Parasite Eve a new holiday tradition.

Parasite Eve

In the pantheon of SquareSoft PSX RPGs, Parasite Eve is fascinating: birthed out of a Sakaguchi working concept for FFVII, it eventually became its own game. Parasite Eve is a fascinating project: a noir/horror RPG based in NYC and released after the mega success of FFVII, there is a lot of experimentation at play in comparison to the games that came before it, from its different take on the ATB system to its present day setting. I first played Parasite Eve a couple years ago, and though I have played countless RPGs from various eras, the gameplay of Parasite Eve feels fresh. The game mixes traditional Square RPG battling with survival horror, which makes the game remarkably unique even to this day: it has been seventeen years since the game's original release and there is still nothing like it.

When put under a microscope, the game world is quite small, especially in comparison to its contemporary Square titles. But what the game lacks in scope it makes up in atmosphere. I cannot express enough how well the game nails its horror: through detailed sound design, disgusting monster design, and creepy and shocking cutscenes, there is a ton of disturbing content at play, and it still works after all these years. For any annoyance I found in the game (final boss sequence I am looking at you) there are a myriad of tiny details that bring the game's world to life: the sound of broken glass under Aya's feet, the fittingly spooky and atmospheric minimalist soundtrack with its 90s horror film vibe, the impressive moments of stillness and silence before many of the boss fights, those cutscenes... and so on. It all adds up to a wonderfully realized world. While other RPGs of the era give you a much larger world to lose yourself in, most aren't as finely honed from moment to moment as Parasite Eve. All of this is helped by the fact that Aya is an amazing leading lady. Seriously: she rocks. This game is far greater than the sum of its parts, and if you have never guided Aya Brea through Parasite Eve's harrowing six days in NYC, you owe it to yourself to experience her origin story. Hopefully she will get her chance to shine again some day.

Parasite Eve

I think Parasite Eve is one of Square's most interesting side projects. My noted disdain for its sequels stems from my love of the creativity and originality present in the original game — there just really isn't a comparable survival horror-meets-JRPG experience on the market. As we talked about on the show, having a smaller scale for Parasite Eve allowed the developers time to create a level of detail that was unparalleled even among other Squaresoft titles, giving the title an impeccable atmosphere. And having a lead as powerful and strong as Aya seems remarkably progressive for the era. Although there was definitely some Lara Croft-esque sexualization going on in the marketing department, this is largely divorced from Aya the character, who brings a gun to the opera and is fully prepared to take charge and kick ass once the giant fire-breathing mutant rats show up. Last, but not least, the music... man, Primal Eyes is an amazing opening theme, and it only gets better from there. Hats off to you, Shimomura-san.

Parasite Eve

I played Parasite Eve when it released in the fall of 1998, and somehow have never played it again since then. I enjoyed it enough back then that I dove into everything the game had to offer — including the extremely long Chrysler Building post-game. The presentation is very much late-90s Squaresoft, as the character models are a step above Final Fantasy VII, with nicely-detailed pre-rendered backgrounds the company was known for at the time. Playing it again 17 years later, I expected the game would feel dated, but it holds up surprisingly well. Like the rest of my co-hosts, I would love to see a modern-day RPG (a new Parasite Eve or not) that uses this exact battle system. Unlike some games, moving around in battle is actually important and part of the strategy. The dialogue is sometimes overly simplistic — It feels like it was originally longer, but someone cut it down to a summary — but it gets the job done. The story is weird and gross and interesting, and they just nailed the cinematic presentation.

That's something I paid more attention to this time: The original tagline of "The Cinematic RPG" was not just for show. The sweeping camera movements in cutscenes, the buddy-cop relationship between Aya and Daniel, and the flow of the game are very similar to that of an action/horror movie. While I often say that the one thing holding it back from a pure movie-like experience is voice acting, to be blunt, I wouldn't want 1998-caliber voice acting. Most voice work at the time was shameful compared to Metal Gear Solid (also released that year), so we may be better off. However, a modern-day HD version with solid voice work? I could totally get behind that.




Final Thoughts Archive
Episode 1: Trails in the Sky Episode 2: Final Fantasy X Episode 3: Final Fantasy Tactics Episode 4: The Last Story Episode 5: Terranigma Episode 6: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night Episode 7: Deus Ex: Human Revolution Episode 8: Parasite Eve Episode 9: Pokémon Episode 13: NieR Episode 14: The World Ends With You Episode 15: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask Episode 16: Xenogears Episode 17: South Park: The Stick of Truth Episode 18: Valkyria Chronicles Episode 19: Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc Episode 20: Child of Light Episode 21: Diablo III Episodes 70 & 71: Shadow Hearts: Covenant Episodes 73 & 75: Chrono Trigger Episodes 79 & 81: Tales of the Abyss Episodes 82 & 83: Darksiders Episodes 86 & 88: Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride Episodes 90 & 92: EarthBound Episodes 95 & 97: Grim Fandango Episodes 101 & 102: Final Fantasy XII





Coming Up on Twitch

Star Ocean: The Second Story
Sunday, October 22 • 10am PDT/1pm EDT

Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
Mondays • 6pm PDT/9pm EDT

Vandal Hearts
Tuesdays • 12pm PDT/3pm EDT

Xenogears
Tues-Wed-Thu and Saturdays • 7pm PDT/10pm EDT

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